Subject: Cane toads in ADF Timor base 'common knowledge'
also Haburas Foundation - Cane Toads in T-L?
Cane toads in ADF Timor base 'common knowledge'
September 16, 2008 - 2:51PM
Senior military personnel knew Australian troops were responsible for
introducing cane toads to East Timor two years ago, it has been alleged.
The presence of the toxic amphibians inside the Australian Defence
Force Camp Phoenix compound in Dili in mid-2006 was common knowledge,
Defence Force sources have told The Sun-Herald.
At the time, they were exclusive to the base and could have been
eradicated but nothing was done.
It was revealed last Tuesday that Australia's most destructive pest
is present throughout Dili and had also spread to several regional areas
of the fledgling nation.
Defence Department officials are playing down claims the toads made
the 650-kilometre jump by hitching a ride with East Timor-bound
Australian military vehicles or supply shipments, arguing that it was
impossible to tell how, when and exactly where they arrived.
However, soldiers formerly stationed at Phoenix say they have no
doubt, and that quarantine measures which could have checked the
infestation were non-existent.
Greens leader Bob Brown has described the migration as an
international biological emergency demanding dramatic Federal Government
"It's evident that a wide area is already under threat and there's
the potential for the toads to spread quickly to the Indonesian
archipelago, Papua New Guinea and into South-East Asia," Mr Brown said.
Asked to estimate the likely cost of such a major eradication
operation, he replied: "Whatever. It doesn't matter. It will be nothing
compared to that of the cane toads doing their lethal worst.
"It's something I'll be putting in very strong terms before the
Senate this week."
Speaking in Darwin last week, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said
he had yet to speak to Australian Defence Force head, Air Chief Marshall
Angus Houston about the issue but believed the Defence Force had "very
strict quarantine controls".
In a statement the following day, the Defence Force said both
government and non-government equipment had been transported to East
Timor from a number of Australian ports during the past nine years.
However, troop sources were adamant the toads first appeared solely
inside Phoenix between July and September, 2006.
"Everyone to the rank of brigadier was required to do night picket
duty; there was no way you could miss them," one soldier, who asked not
to be named, said.
"You'd be out there for two hours at the front gate or on roving
patrol and, basically, they were the only things moving. One of the
majors stationed there was known to amuse himself by running around
jumping on them."
Another infantry source said: "There were no toads at the time over
the road in Crocodile Alley, there were none dead on the roads outside
the base and none at the [Air Point of Departure] camp. They were only
"Early on, if they had done a collection each night they might have
caught the problem but they didn't and it was obviously then just a
matter of time before they got into the open drains in the Caicoli
fields next door."
Dili-based Care International spokesman Simplicio Barbosa told ABC
Radio last week: "There are so many toads in East Timor; they are
brought in by the INTERFET [the International Force for East Timor]. We
don't know how to get them away, how to kill them."
The Defence Force said it was unable to verify the latest claims. A
spokeswoman told The Sun-Herald that Australian facilities in East Timor
were subject to stringent environmental health checks and various
However, sources vehemently rejected this, claiming there were no
dedicated environmental officers assigned to Dili's Operation Astute and
that the only "pests" eradicated were local cats that had ventured on to
the base in search of rats.
Source: The Sun-Herald
All publicity is Good Publicity! - Cane Toads in Timor Leste?
The Haburas Foundation wishes to thank Prof. Ric Shine for his expert
opinions on the identification of the toads that have been found in TL.
This kind of strong specialist knowledge is exactly what this country
needs in its battle against invasive alien (non-native) species.
However we would like to draw attention to the wider issue, which is
that no conclusive academic study on the presence, or absence of the
cane toad Bufo marinus has been made. It is still therefore a matter of
up-most importance that swift and accurate measures are taken to qualify
and quantify this potential disaster.
Thus Haburas are calling for a moratorium on the debate over the
three photographed specimens taken from a single site, and instead to
focus on an urgent, coordinated effort to proactively identify this
potentially massive threat throughout TL. A precautionary approach must
be adopted, with a brief risk assessment (a standard procedure in ASEAN
countries, particularly those that share watersheds and trade vectors),
possibly followed by an urgent and sizable damage limitation operation.
The evidence for and against an Australian army assisted migration is
subjective and will likely never be conclusive. There is however some
anecdotal evidence that should be heard - i.e. the statements from
Australian Defense Force soldiers in The Sun-Herald reporting that they
have no doubt about the 2006 infestation of cane toads in the Phoenix
compound, or about the non-existent quarantine measures that could have
nipped the problem in the bud. While these stories may not be based on
scientific evidence, surely given the severity of the potential problem,
they are worth investigating.
Due to the unsurpassed expertise that the Australian government has
in this field, and the likelihood that if there is a Bufo marinus
trans-boundary migration, it is from Australia, Haburas are urging both
the Timorese and Australian governments to put this topic high on their
agendas, and subsequently collaborate and coordinate efforts towards its
Finally, from Australia's strong academic expertise, Haburas is
openly requesting assistance for field examination capacity, advice or
other that will contribute to a swift resolution to this regional
Sustainable Environment Capacity Building Advisor to The Haburas
Back to September Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu